Having caught up to Red Bull and Ferrari's pace to a degree where they earned a one-two finish at Brazil at the penultimate race of the season, Mercedes fell away from the pace again at the finale at Yas Marina.
Lewis Hamilton had worked his way up to the podium places, but a hydraulic issue ended his race, and season, prematurely, while George Russell came home a distant fifth.
Mercedes were the third-fastest car for almost the entire season and given the in-between status they had between the front-runners and the midfield, Russell was in something of a no-man's land during the race, as had often been the case in the first half of the season - despite his consistent top-five placings.
Speaking to the BBC's Chequered Flag podcast after Hamilton's retirement and asked if Russell's points were much consolation, Wolff said: "No, I think that race now pretty much summed up our season where it was just super difficult and, at times, very hard to cope, but I think we've lost it on merit."
When asked if the year has been tough on a personal level as well, Wolff added: "Yeah, but I think it's also a lesson in humility and understanding that sometimes things can go wrong, then I think this year is going to make us strong on the long term.
"We will never stop charging, but my perspective is not on one race, but it's over five and 10 years or more, and that's the objective."
Mercedes already rebuilding for 2023 comeback
From what Mercedes had already been saying over the final few races of the season, their eyes have looked long set on bouncing back with their 2023 car - metaphorically rather than literally, given the problems the W13 had with such issues earlier in the year.
Strategy director James Vowles said as much in the team's post-race debrief, identifying the confidence he has in the team and their resources to put them to good use over winter and come back stronger in pre-season testing.
"The confidence we have is that we now have our tools, our wind tunnel tools, our development tools, our performance tools here in the organisation producing performance which is more than our competitors, it's allowing us to move further forward relative to them," he said.
"There is still a void though, and Abu Dhabi really showed that. That has to be caught up across the winter and I think we have a very good process and system in place to do that.
"That development that you saw across the season will continue across the winter and I think we will be in a very strong place next year."